Andrew Cuomo's Biggest Rival Won't Be the G.O.P.

It's Shelly Silver and the old-school Dems in his race to Governor

It is one thing to challenge the unions on pensions, Medicaid excess, and charters, but quite another to walk away from their demand that revenues respect ability to pay. Mario Cuomo beat Koch in part by depicting him as a Reaganite on taxes who moved to repeal a levy on multimillion-dollar real estate deals while trying to reduce cost-of-living increases for workers.

Cuomo's inequality evasiveness isn't limited to taxes, however. The high point of his convention speech, which brought blacks and others to their feet, was his poignant portrayal of the disparities in public education: "You can go to schools on one side of town and they will take you to first-graders who are on the Internet," he boomed. "And you can go to schools on the other side of town and they don't have a basketball net." He did the same with Pentium processors in one school, and metal detectors in the other. He concluded with a declaration that "discrimination is alive and well" in New York, on education, housing, employment, and other fronts.

But Cuomo doesn't mention the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit in his platform or speeches, though the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled in 2006 that the very inequity Cuomo is describing is chronic in the state's school aid formula and has to be corrected. The lawsuit dragged on for 13 years, appealed endlessly by Pataki, but even after the New York City plaintiffs finally prevailed, the legislature and Paterson have stopped implementing it, preserving allocations that penalize the state's poorest school districts. The only obvious blow that Cuomo refuses to throw at his legislative punching bag, though, is its crushing refusal now to sustain the effort toward equalizing school expenditures.

Andrew Cuomo
Newscom
Andrew Cuomo
Shelly Silver
Matt Ryan
Shelly Silver

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With additional research and reporting by Gavin Aronsen, Michael Cohen, Cat Contiguglia, Scott Greenberg, Alana Horowitz, Bill Kline, and Jenny Tai

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Paterson even suggests delaying full implementation for another decade, freezing the status quo of suburban advantage at the cost of short-circuited urban futures. Silver and Sampson, two city legislators, have so far appeared to acquiese in this virtually invisible conspiracy, determined to hang on to the suburban seats Democrats control. It is fast becoming the state's shameful secret, and Cuomo appears unwilling to tackle it, even as his proposal to cap property tax increases, which fund local schools, is likely to heighten disparities.

These omissions in the Cuomo plan are, no doubt, as calculated as the inclusions. And they say as much about the candidate, who, as he moves from Memorial Day parades in Queens to tense sessions with the Working Families Party, can't help but hear the echoes from his father's courageous 1982 campaign.

"It's a business that can make you forget—at least in the frenzy and heat of the campaign," Mario Cuomo wrote in his published diary, "who you are, what you are and what you're supposed to be. Because the goal is so dramatic, the pursuit of it so complete, unless one is very careful, everything else is eclipsed. That happens in life all the time: a temporary delight can be so tempting that it makes us forget a greater good. The attraction of a victory offered in the campaign—what it offers the ego, if not the soul—can be a powerful distraction from the greater good. The greater good for me has to be to remember that anything which is not an expression of love—or silence—is probably wrong."

wbarrett@villagevoice.com

Previously: "Andrew Cuomo and Fannie and Freddie," How the youngest Housing and Urban Development secretary in history gave birth to the mortgage crisis by Wayne Barrett.
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